Healthy Decisions for the Love of Health

You Are What You Eat - Processed Foods by Paul Chek

[This article is an excerpt from the newly released nine-hour CD/Workbook program “You Are What You Eat!” by Paul Chek.]

Do me a favor before you read the next paragraph - go to your cupboards and refrigerator, and take a look at how many packaged food items you have in your kitchen. While you are there pull out a desert item (i.e. ice cream), a boxed item (i.e. breakfast cereal) and any other item you have that is flavored (i.e. salad dressing) and take a look at the labels. After reading the ingredients list, ask yourself:

1. How many words am I unable to pronounce?

2. Which of these ingredients have I never heard of and/or have no idea what it is?

Go take a look at those labels and, when you come back to finish this article, I will tell you why you may be having such a hard time flattening your abs, and why, even if they are flat, you may feel so dull every day!

If you did this little exercise, you may be surprised at the number of multi-syllable words that look more like they should be the ingredients of super glue than of something you’re eating. It is time to enlighten you with regard to what some of these ingredients are and what they can do to you. The gigantic and often strange words listed as ingredients (where food items are supposed to be!) are various concoctions used to color, stabilize, emulsify, bleach, texturize, soften, preserve, sweeten, add or cover smells, and flavor! In case you were wondering just how many of these little chemicals were sneaking into your mouth each year, current statistics say that the FDA lists approximately 2800 international food additives and about 3,000 chemicals, which are deliberately added to our food supply. When considering the number of chemicals used in the process of growing and processing food, by the food to the time it reaches our stomach we have consumed between 10,000 and 15,000 chemicals a day! (1)

While some of you may be thinking, “I don’t eat that many food additives,” I have news for you. The FDA doesn’t require food additives considered to be Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) to be put on an ingredients label. Instead, all that is required are the words “artificial flavor” or “artificial coloring” or “natural”. The fact is, the average American eats approximately his/her body weight in food additives each year, or approximately 150 pounds; this statistic is roughly the same for most English speaking countries. Of this amount, 15 pounds or more will be used as flavoring agents, preservatives and dyes, many of which are considered GRAS by the FDA. Before you get comfortable with chemicals considered to be GRAS, you should realize that to save time and money, the FDA allows the food and additive manufacturers to notify them of the GRAS status of their additives and they are allowed to provide their own evidence to support their claim! Think about that for a moment. Having the chemical manufacturers provide their own research showing a given chemical is safe is like asking a cigarette manufacturer do their own research showing cigarettes are safe! It’s no wonder that this takes place when billions of dollars are at stake and the health of the average person is unimportant.

The fact of the matter is food and additive manufacturers, like drug manufacturers, are running the largest study ever run in history - and you are the guinea pigs! That’s right. It is only when they get enough reports about the damaging effects of a given additive that they remove it from the GRAS list. With that in mind, what are the chances of some doctor reporting to the FDA that their patient suffered adverse reactions to acetaldehyde, acetic acid, or agar-agar when they were merely on the label as “food additives” and not listed individually because they are on the GRAS list? Consider the side effects of these chemicals:

* Acetaldehyde is known to be an irritant to mucous membranes, which line your entire digestive tract, is a central nervous system depressant and large doses may cause death.

* Acetic acid may cause gastrointestinal distress, skin rashes and eye irritation.

* Agar-agar may cause flatulence, bloating (good bye abs!) and may have a laxative effect (2).

Please realize, I just pulled these GRAS food additives out of a book entitled “Food Additives, A Shopper’s Guide To What’s Safe & What’s Not” by Christine Hoza Farlow, D.C., and there are hundreds more GRAS additives whose side-effects look more like something Saddam Hussein would be interested in purchasing to use against Americans than it does something to be put in food. Yet millions of people are eating these chemicals every day!

By the way, don’t be fooled by the use of the term “natural”. Insects, insect larvae, monkey guts, and even mercury are all “natural” and are just a few of the natural items that end up in your food! Eric Schlosser, in his book “Fast Food Nation”, sums it up nicely by quoting Terry Acree, a professor of food science technology at Cornell University who says, “A natural flavor is a flavor that’s been derived with an out-of-date technology”. Food manufacturers play with your perception of what given words mean and they know that if they can label an additive as “natural”, the health conscious label reading consumer is much more likely to purchase it, yet just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s better for you. After all, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and cocaine are all natural, but none of them are good for you!

To show what is being hidden from us and is right under our nose (literally!), consider these ingredients used in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, but are not disclosed because they are GRAS:

Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl Nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2butanone (10% solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent (3)!

To make this even more alarming, the ingredients listed here are only for the “strawberry flavoring” in a Burger King milk shake, this doesn’t include the ice cream or anything else in the shake! Can you imagine what the ingredient list for Neapolitan ice cream would look? Our liver must process all of this (Figure 1A & 1B), and when our liver becomes overworked, these chemicals can end up in our blood stream, with almost unlimited access to the cells of our bodies, as well as placing strain on our detoxification systems!

Figure 1A

Figure 1B

“Can’t Just Eat One” Syndrome

Have you ever reached for a bag of chips while thinking, “I really don’t need these, but I’ll just eat a few,” only to end up reaching back in the bag over and over until you reach the bottom? Or how about a tub of ice cream - ever started out nibbling away thinking “I’ll just have a few bites,” and next thing you know you’re scraping the bottom of the carton? Don’t feel bad if you do because, unless you were eating 100% certified organic chips or ice cream, you most likely fell prey to the chemical tricks food manufacturers are playing on your body and your wallet!

It turns out that food scientists have determined how to manipulate the part of your brain that controls food cravings called the appestat. The appestat constantly monitors the nutrient content of you blood and only when fifty-one specific nutrients are present at their proper levels will an individual feel entirely full and satisfied. Food scientists have found that by adding or subtracting some of these nutrients, they can manipulate your sense of hunger and satiety. While the research is still incomplete, it’s believed that that adding excess fat, sugar and salt to a food tends to make people over eat (4). This is why both sugar and salt show up in some of the strangest places. For example, would you have expected to find sugar in sandwich meats? Have a look at the ingredients on the package in your refrigerator and look for words ending with “ose”. Anything ending with this suffix is a sugar. While you’re at it, look at your catsup bottle, your canned soups, medicines and even cigarettes! How sweet of them to play such tricks on your appetite centers. If you are overweight, you are more than likely one of millions of victims of chemical manipulation!

So how effective have the food manufacturers been with their chemical games? Currently, approximately 90% of the money that Americans spend on food is used to buy processed foods (3). When you follow the advances in food science, there is loose parallel in how much fast food Americans are purchasing and the amount of chemical-trickery scientists do to our food. Consider that in 1970, when the food sciences were comparatively undeveloped, Americans spent approximately $6 billion a year on fast foods. By the year 2000, scientists had added thousands of new chemical tricks to their arsenal and, with more attractive packaging and advertising campaigns, fast food sales soured to $110 billion! This combination of advertising and chemistry used by fast food manufacturers is so successful that American fast food business tycoons can’t resist the opportunity to make billions by poisoning almost every corner of the globe. As of the middle of 2000, McDonald’s planed on opening 650 restaurants in Asia, 550 in Europe, 350 in Latin America, 200 in the US and another 250 in the rest of the world - a total of 1,500 new restaurants in Asia were planned by 2002! (5). Their strategic combination of marketing and scientific trickery has been so successful that half of Australian children ages 9 and 10 thought that Ronald McDonald knew what kids should be eating; McDonald’s has become the favorite food eaten by children in China! (6)

Table 1

America ranks among the lowest of all the major industrial nations in terms of life expectancy, yet spends significantly more money on health care than any country in the world.

Human beings, armed with some 10,000 taste buds, are thought to have a fairly comprehensive sense of taste (7). While you would think that we would be capable of using this arsenal of taste buds to sniff-out foods of superior nutritional quality to eat, it would appear that chemical science has put up an effective smoke screen. Approximately 50% of the American population have eaten themselves into some degree of obesity and semi-starvation by consuming nutritionally inadequate foods! If that’s not enough, the US spends more money on health care than any other nation with each person averaging over $4,000 per year in medical expenses. Yet the US ranks last for life expectancy among all industrialized nations, is far from being the healthiest nation (Table 1). This is not hard to believe when you consider that in the year 2000, retail pharmacies in the US filled 3 billion prescriptions - that’s hardly what I would consider a healthy nation (8)! Then when you take into account that there were 281 million people living in the US in 2000, with 3 billion prescriptions being filled, that’s almost 11 prescriptions per person. This means, for every person who doesn’t buy a prescription, there is someone else getting 22 filled each year!

With prescription drug sales amounting to $145 billion in the year 2000 alone (9), and an additional $20.8 billion coming from over the counter retail sales (10), it would appear that the chemicals used in commercial farming, fast food restaurants and processed food are contributing a great deal of money to the medical and drug industry - all one big happy family of multi-billionaires!

Is Processed Food Really Food?

Have you ever wondered how it is that today that, in spite of the most advanced medical technology in history, in spite of the fact that we have more doctors, therapists, nutritionists, diet experts (per capita) and diet books than ever in history, we are more sick than ever in history? Could it be what we are eating? Were we always this sickly? I don’t think so, or we would never have withstood the selective pressures of evolution! Something has gone wrong - VERY WRONG!

In 1936, a highly respected scientist, dentist and expert in human nutrition named Weston A. Price, traveled the globe studying indigenous populations and correlating their dietary habits with their incidence of disease and dental carries (11). Price found that in tribes and cultures consuming a whole-food diet had virtually no dental carries (cavities) or disease!

Price also noted that diseases such as cancer were relatively unheard of in many cultures. Look at the photos in Figure 2A and 2B and ask yourself which Figure shows people who were eating “white man’s food” (processed food) and which were eating food native to their culture!

(Used with kind permission from the Price-Pottenger Foundation.)

Figure 2A

Figure 2B

In Price’s study of primitive cultures, he consistently noted that they engaged in minimal food processing. Primitive peoples mostly used fire to cook meats, but not all, as the Eskimos and others commonly ate many portions of animals and fish raw. Salting, lacto-fermentation and pickling were among the very few methods of processing foods for storage and not surprisingly, these methods have been found to increase the nutritional value of many foods (12)!

Dr. Price’s research was consistent with the research of famous medical doctor, Francis Marrion Pottenger, who wrote the book, “Pottenger’s Cats”. Pottenger clearly demonstrate using extensive studies of cats that exposure to pasteurized milk and/or cooked meats resulted in rapid onset of disease and bodily malformation; his clinical observations suggested that similar results occur in humans. Because of the findings in his studies, Dr. Pottenger stated, “…nutrition becomes one of the most important elements in preventive medicine.” Regardless of which disease process is studied, the link between poor nutrition and disease, including cancer, clearly exists in studies and clinical observations of animals and man. In fact, I know of no study showing that a diet of processed foods provides health-giving benefits when compared to a whole-food diet!

What you see in most shopping carts today are what I call “non-foods”. My definition of a non-food is, “Any food that costs more in nutrition to digest, absorb and eliminate than it delivers to your body.” Most people forget that there is a cost to metabolize anything you put in your mouth. Literally every cell in the body needs proper nutrition or it will die. There are billions of cells involved in the processes of digestion, absorption and elimination of foods, not including the nutritional demands of human movement. Yet as indicated above, 90% of all the money spent on food in the US is spent on FAST FOODS! So where does that leave you?

We don’t need to be a doctor, nutritionist or research scientist to figure out what’s going on. We can use a simple accounting analogy to get a clear image of the blunder we have purchased our way into. Consider your body as a business. It costs money to run a business - you must purchase goods and services such as supplies, electricity, water, waste disposal and you must pay your workers. If your business doesn’t bring in enough money to pay your expenses, including adequate money for you to make a living, the business will go bankrupt! Your body is just like any business. You have about 100 trillion cells, all of which are like little employees working for you around the clock. To keep your body running, it too needs water, air, energy and supplies in the form of nutrition. The business of running a body is also a little tricky because while you may have an unproductive employee now and then in a business, you can always lay them off or fire them. In your body, you can’t lay your cells off, you can’t fire them, and if you don’t supply them with adequate nutrition to repair themselves, they get sick and start to die. If this goes on long enough, you too will go bankrupt and you will die!

Now, just look at the statistics for disease and drug-use in this country and you will get a very good picture of what happens when you consume a diet of “non-foods” - foods that take more out of your bodily bank account than you have in the account to spend. Literally every time you eat candy, cookies, soda pop, processed sandwich meats, white bread, white flower or pasteurized, processed anything, you are deviating away from the dietary plan the human body was designed for. You are also spending more money/nutrition to process garbage disguised as foods than the foods themselves bring in. This leaves the body no choice but to draw upon your own tissues for the nutrients it needs to try and survive. To prove my point, one need only look at the skyrocketing rates of degenerative diseases, which are highest - you guessed it - in those countries consuming the highest percentage of processed foods.


1. If you can’t pronounce a word on the label, don’t eat it! If you can’t pronounce a word on a food label, chances are very good it is a chemical that your liver will have to work to detoxify, and most likely, your liver won’t like it! Dr. Price found in his research of healthy people that they ate mostly unprocessed whole-foods and some minimally processed foods. They lived in accordance with nature and if you want to have a beautiful, healthy body, you should too!

2. If it’s a non-food, don’t eat it! The more non-foods you eat, the more likely your body is to go bankrupt! Remember, food manufacturers are NOT required to prove that their products sustain life. Pretty much every research dollar they spend is to determine how to make foods cheaper, increase shelf life and how to trick you into buying them. Just remember this Paul Chek rule - “The more money they spend to market any food, the worse it is likely to be for you”! Good healthy food requires little marketing because people know it’s good for you. They need to convince you to eat their garbage, so they need to spend a lot in marketing to ensure you do.

3. The longer it lasts on the shelf, the worse it is for you! Most things in nature will not last more than a few days once picked or killed for consumption. Increasing a product’s shelf life means stripping it of anything that can eventually go bad or rancid out of it, such as enzymes, vitamins, minerals and ultimately it’s life force! Many of the foods you eat today are so full of chemicals and pesticide residues you can leave them sitting on the kitchen counter for days on end and the ants won’t even touch them! The bugs are smarter than we are!

4. Never eat anything with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oils/fats” in it! These are cooked fats that have been altered in a way that make them very hard to digest, as well as being damaging to the body. This form of fat does not occur naturally in nature and in fact, chemists say the molecular structure of hydrogenated fats more closely resembles plastic than food! Read your food labels and you will likely be surprised at how much hydrogenate fats and oils you are eating!

5. Never eat any food product that has been “enriched”! The only reason food manufacturers “enrich” foods is because they have completely killed and stripped them in processing, leaving the foods so void of nutrition and life-force that they must add things back to them so they don’t kill off all their customers! If you read “Beating The Food Giants” by food scientist Paul A. Stitt, he tells you that the food manufacturers purchase the cheapest possible synthetic vitamins possible and they often apply them to foods (i.e. cereals) on the way in the oven! Any nutrition expert will tell you that most vitamins can’t withstand high heat and most of the rigors of processing. There is also plenty of literature suggesting that some synthetic vitamins may be toxic to the body!

6. Avoid eating anything that has been genetically modified or genetically engineered! Currently, almost ALL processed foods contain genetically modified organisms. This is an entire topic unto itself, but eating any genetically modified food is a risk that you may want to seriously consider if you value your health.


1. Dworkin, A. and Kella, W. “Thriving in a Toxic World.” Olivenhain, CA: Professional Preference, 1996.
2. Farlow, C.H. “Food Additives: A Shopper’s Guide to What’s Safe and What’s Not”. KISS For Health Publishing, 2001.
3. Schiosser E. “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal”. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
4. Stitt, P. “Beating the Food Giants”. Natural Press; 1993.
5. The Ecologist, July/August 2000. News In Brief p.10
6. The Ecologist June 2001. “Pulling A Fast One”, by Ian Elliott p.36
7. Chek, P. “Under the Veil of Deception”. Encinitas, CA: A C.H.E.K Institute Publication, 2002.
8. Prescription Drug Sales Increased By Nearly 20% Last Year in US.
9. US Drug Sales Up 15% Last Year. Reuters June 2, 2001.
10. Prescription Drugs and Mass Media Advertising 1999-2000. National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation
11. Price, Weston. “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration“. Price-Pottenger Foundation, 1945
12. Fallon S and Enig M. “Nourishing Traditions.” 2nd ed. Washington DC: New Trends Publishing, 1999.


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